Can I share a secret? Hiding behind my mask, I’ve saved a bundle this year on face cream, lipstick, and even (gasp!) toothpaste. What I’ll look like when I finally emerge from the cocoon may alarm the neighbors.
We so often leave unattended what nobody else can see, where no outsider will notice. You know…the grime on the top shelf, the dust under the bed, the cracks in the plaster, the chaos in the closet.
Even more shocking is the scenery behind our spiritual facades. Sigh, so often unattractive. And for now, invisible. When I remove my mask at home, negative thoughts and ugly words occasionally spew. My husband says, “Hmm, that doesn’t sound like Diana Delacruz-dot-com.”
And he’s so right, of course. Someone once complained, “She wants to change the world, but everyone just wishes she’d change herself.” Isn’t that the truth? But when I wax eloquently spiritual on Seaglass Blog (or any of my books, for that matter), I’m mostly preaching to myself.
All my noblest thoughts become a kind of life story goal. As I work on my character, I realize she’s not who I am now. But she’s who I want to be by the end of the story. Beneath my imperfect faith, I write to affirm the bedrock of my confidence in the Author.
So behind my mask, maybe I’m playing a role. But living “as if” isn’t so bad either. What if I’m not strong or gracious or beautiful or courageous? I make it today’s challenge to live as if I were.
Behind my mask…
I’m not wearing makeup.
It sullies the mask, so I generally dispense with the stucco these days. Perhaps I need to learn authenticity, to find the real me, without any church cosmetics either.
As I’ve meditated on the recurring themes and motifs in my writing over the past few months, I’ve saved the most transcendent for last: Spiritual Transformation. I considered labeling it Church Motifs. Three posts about Home, School, and Church sound so cohesive, as if I’d planned them. But though the Body of Christ certainly figures in my books, I don’t really mean church.
I’m focusing here on the God motifs. In literature, the tangible element of a motif (such as an object or image) appears repeatedly and symbolizes a theme. Our indescribable God, of course, cannot be a motif in the sense of a physical item, per se. But without doubt, He hovers and permeates and weaves the patterns in everything I write.
God is at work. Behind the scenes, behind the masks. Perhaps not always in explicit ways. Then again, His omnipresence encompasses ideas almost too wide and deep to address. In each and every narrative, God represents what or Who matters most. He IS the Big Story.
While I have no personal agenda or political ideology to toot, I do burn with a desire for God’s glory and a longing for others to know and love Him. I’m afraid to write about some topics, but little by little He’s peeling off my mask. It doesn’t help to sidestep, bury…or hide them.
Of course, we don’t all arrive at the same conclusions to every concern of the day. If you’re like me, maybe you don’t even think the same way two days in a row. In seeking a balance between grace and truth, you grow. I grow.
And the truth is, behind my mask…
I’m holding back sobs.
Maybe biting my lip and snuffling. But as with story characters, I learn empathy and compassion by struggling through the hard times and the hard choices.
Tears and tragedies lead us to grapple with the real spiritual issues, don’t they? Instead of just dancing around them like we do when the world is playing our tune. As spiritual beings, we’re driven by spiritual thirst, whether or not we realize it. And it’s pure God-water we need, not champagne OR religious Kool-Aid. In the God motifs, He and His Word refresh and revive us.
But I wonder sometimes if that’s too straight on-the-nose for a book? Existentialism has exerted a powerful influence on our modern literature: We design our own fate or destiny, and this life—this existence—is all there is. Either God doesn’t exist, or we effectively live as if He didn’t.
So I ask myself, What did I think about behind my mask when I was 15, like the character Melissa in Destiny at Dolphin Bay? Without the filters I’ve been taught to use or the guards I’ve put in place, I thought a lot worse things than Melissa. BUT I thought about God too, and I didn’t try to camouflage it from myself.
“All I can hope to do is to remind them of what they know, to enliven what they know, that is to make it more accessible to their imaginations, and thus to their faith.” –Garret Kaizer, A Dresser of Sycamore Trees
The theme of Destiny at Dolphin Bay is…destiny, of course. Featuring a protagonist who grew up in a tea shop but detests tea, it carries a motif of tea. But the novel also has identity as a secondary theme. The dolphin motif reflects, in its ability to live in both water and air, our multiple identities as God’s children in this world.
To some extent, every YA (teen/young adult) book presents a coming-of-age story about change, growth, and identity. But behind our masks, we wrestle all our lives with the age-old questions:
- Who am I?
- Why am I here?
- What am I supposed to be doing?
God has the answers, if we’re open to listen. In Destiny, the Master Storyteller responds by recalibrating Melissa’s compass and washing out every road that might take her back to an ordinary life, the way things were.
The several subplots of Pursuit of the Pudú Deer are each a metaphor about goals. They offer an answer to the question: What is worth pursuing? Pursuit also explores the eternal dilemma of what constitutes true love. Doesn’t every virtue represent God to some degree? Here, His perfect love neither suffocates nor alienates.
Which brings us to one of the life’s biggies: How could a loving God allow…? Amid a family’s search for their past identity, Legacy of the Linnebrink Light peers beyond the veil of dark despair, not to their flimsy faith, but to God. Grief and hopelessness may plug our ears; the universe may declare there are no answers. Yet He gives many.
Do you think I’m beautiful? Am I precious to you? The doubts of every female heart. Somehow, in the wealth of God motifs, the Swan Island Secrets series posits another angle to our identity crisis. In Swan Pose, the character Coni simulates a counterfeit beauty, a masquerade. In Swan Dive, she finds a new identity in Jesus and begins to live out of her true heart. Dying to her old self in Swan Song, Coni’s reborn and transformed. The ultimate ugly-duckling tale.
Winds of Andalucía follows Valeria as she develops her own identity, apart from her family, friends, or fiancé. Her emerging independence leads her finally to anchor in dependence on God. Who can I trust at the end of the day?
Because behind my mask…
I’m gritting my teeth.
You can’t tell if I’m smiling anyway, can you? ? In Chile, God teaches me patient endurance daily…in the long lines, the short supplies, the thermometers and alcohol gel.
What really matters? Does it matter at all if I am obedient and kind and holy? Whether I sacrifice for others, push through my fears, or trust in the face of…the void? Whether I am faithful behind closed doors, behind my mask? Is there meaning to the cross of Christ if the world implodes and all I’ve hung my hopes on seems like a wanton waste of time?
Nothing’s a waste if I did it for Him, for love.
“Suddenly simple resistance had a darker feel, a thieving feel, as if something tangible and powerful were taking our beautiful stories away… The world needs for us to write something better.” –Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
In First Mate’s Log, the series about Melissa as a young woman, I highlight God’s tailoring of identity—personality, background, and gifts—to the destiny, the specific mission, He has planned for her. “It’s not always what you think,” is a phrase that pops up more than once.
She doesn’t feel competent, yet her love for God and for her future partner motivates her service. And yes, though God uses her abilities, her availability means much more. Anybody could do what she does, but not everybody’s willing.
Sometimes God calls us to hold the fort. And sometimes he wants to send us on an assignment that’s far from easy. Out of our depth, out of the secure zone. It’ll be epic. What makes epic? When the task is more difficult than you can imagine, and the cause is more crucial than you suppose.
If you’re up for the challenge.
Meaning willing, not able. Not one of us is able, really. Whether it’s killing a giant or drawing water for tea.
God wants the story of our lives to turn out great. Not just exciting, but meaningful and worthwhile. And believe me, Satan does NOT want us to fulfill God’s design and go on the adventure. He’d rather we just cowered behind the compound walls.
What’s going on behind YOUR mask? Behind my mask, I’m terrified. Every day I’m convinced I can’t do this.
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding…the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). I’m undergoing a change process from the old image to the new identity. Remember how Moses had to cover his face because he reflected the splendor of God’s presence?
Could I live as if…behind my mask, I’m glorious?